We're a think and do tank and resource for states and local communities in the middle of the country.We do this by studying broad economic trends and building data-driven and community-tested partnerships, programs and policies to address the needs of the heartland.
Since joining Heartland Forward in 2019, DeVol has raised the profile of Heartland Forward through media engagement with quotes in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the Economist and Axios and op-eds in the Dallas Morning News, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Chicago Tribune and Des Moines Register as well as TV appearances throughout the heartland. DeVol is a former chief research officer for the Milken Institute where he spent nearly 20 years, an economic think tank headquartered in California. He oversaw research on international, national and comparative regional growth performance, access to capital and its role in economic growth and job creation and health-related topics. He has been ranked among the “Superstars of Think Tank Scholars” by International Economy magazine.
Angie Cooper serves as executive vice president of Heartland Forward, overseeing strategy, public policy, programming and Heartland Forward’s flagship event, the Heartland Summit.
As Executive Vice President, Angie is focused on being a resource for states and communities – turning Heartland Forward’s research into action, creating new partnerships, leading on public policy solutions and serving as a resource for state and local communities across the 20-states in the heartland region.
For more than 16 years, Angie worked in international and domestic public policy and government affairs for Walmart Stores, Inc., most recently as senior director of global public policy. Angie also worked in various departments within Walmart including, merchandising, public affairs, state and local government relations and the Walmart foundation.
While at Walmart, Angie served as Walmart’s chair of the Women’s Resource Council (WRC). Angie has also been on the board for the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) and the American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL). Angie currently sits on the board as chair for Common Threads, a nonprofit organization that provides nutrition education to children, parents and educators in under-resourced communities.
In 2023, Angie was awarded by the Benton Institute as the Charles Benton Digital Equity Emerging Leader for her work on the #1 economic issue of our time – providing everyone access to affordable high-speed internet. She was also recognized as a Top 100 Women of Impact in Arkansas.
Angie is a native of Oklahoma and a graduate of Oklahoma State University.
As a native of Texas, Woolsey has been consulting for nearly three years helping clients primarily with strategy, communications, and development. Prior, she served as the executive vice president at Fayetteville, Ark.-based public relations agency Mitchell from 2008 to 2018. She served on the executive committee and advised clients in media relations, strategy, and messaging for global brands and nonprofits.
Prior to her role with Mitchell, Woolsey was a partner and co-owner of Executive Communications Consultants, LLC, where she offered facilitated strategy sessions, public speaking workshops, media training, and private coaching for executives. She also served as a senior development officer at the University of Arkansas’ College of Business, taking the lead on the school’s Campaign for the 21st Century and solidifying a $50 million gift from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation, which at the time was the largest ever gift to an American business school.
Woolsey was honored in 2018 by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce with the Mrs. Sarah Jessie Young Leadership by Example Award. She was also appointed to the Northwest Arkansas National Airport’s board of directors in 2015 and has served as its first female chair since 2018.
Send Blake an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
David Shideler serves as the chief research officer for Heartland Forward’s research team which includes visiting senior fellows Richard Florida and Maryann Feldman. With a mission to help improve the economic performance in the heartland and change the narrative of the middle of the country, the original research efforts focus on four key pillars: innovation and entrepreneurship, human capital, health and wellness and regional competitiveness.
Shideler joined Heartland Forward after more than a decade at Oklahoma State University, serving as a professor and Community and Economic Development Specialist in the Department of Agricultural Economics. In these roles, he oversaw projects in community and rural development and small business development, and published peer-reviewed research articles on the economic impacts of internet access, incentive programs, and local food production.
Shideler holds a Ph.D. in Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics and an M.A. in Economics from the Ohio State University, an M.S. in Agricultural Economics from the Pennsylvania State University, and a B.S. in Community and Rural Development from Clemson University.
Caroline Carlson spent much of her career fundraising for the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Foundation. She directed their development work for 18 years before being promoted to lead the Foundation during the last four years. When she started in 2001, the Foundation had raised $500,000 consistently for over a decade. Caroline developed the program to reach over $5 million in revenue and 280 sponsors in her 22 years at NCSL.
Caroline joins Heartland Forward as director of development to enrich the four pillars that define Heartland Forward’s mission: innovation and entrepreneurship; human capital and workforce; health and wellness and regional competitiveness. She brings her wealth of knowledge of non-profits, government affairs and corporate giving to her role.
Caroline received her undergraduate degree in political science at James Madison University in Virginia and earned her master’s in public affairs at Indiana University in Bloomington.
She resides in Golden, Colorado with her husband, son, two cats and a dog.
In his role, Jonas directs Heartland Forward’s entrepreneurship-focused research projects, co-authors reports and conducts data analysis.
Prior to joining Heartland Forward, Jonas was a senior research associate for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, where he conducted spatial analysis, created surveys and co-authored peer-reviewed journal articles, reports and blog posts on housing, trade, agricultural finance, and the macroeconomy.
Jonas holds a Bachelor of Science in economics with a focus on quantitative analysis from Auburn University. He is on the advisory board for the Center on Rural Innovation’s Rural Opportunity Map. In his free time, Jonas is a volunteer mountain biking coach for a Bentonville-area junior high school.
Amir Masoud Forati is an experienced geospatial data scientist with a focus on health research. He has a strong background in data science, machine learning, visualization, time series analysis and spatial analysis. He serves at a Health Researcher with Heartland Forward.
With a Doctoral degree in geography from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, Amir has conducted research on precision epidemiology, population health and the opioid crisis. He has also worked as a lecturer, research assistant and has industry experience in utility data analytics and precision agriculture. With his diverse background and expertise in health research, data science and geospatial analysis, Amir continues to make valuable contributions in leveraging data-driven insights to address pressing health challenges and shape community responses.
Sarah is a senior accountant for Heartland Forward with nine years of experience in private accounting. She prepares and analyzes financial statements, assists with the annual audit, and assists with annual budget processes. She is native to the state of Arkansas and graduated from Arkansas Tech University with a Bachelor of Science in accounting. Like many who grow-up in the Natural State, she enjoys all things outdoors including biking and hiking.
She and her husband have one young daughter, Hazel, who keeps them very busy. She loves to travel, and her dream is to visit all the national parks.
Mary Larkin serves as the Associate Manager of Public Policy for Heartland Forward. In her work, she supports Heartland Forward’s advocacy work as well as the operationalization of Heartland Forward’s research and programmatic work.
She attended University of Arkansas for her B.A. in Theatre as well as the Clinton School of Public Service for her Master of Public Service. During her time at the Clinton School, Mary Larkin discovered her passion for research-based policy solutions and community engagement.
Mary Larkin grew up in the heartland, born and raised in Northwest Arkansas.
Solomon joined Heartland Forward in 2023 as director of public policy. In this role he works to advance Heartland Forward’s advocacy and public policy activities for its four program areas across the 20-state heartland region including leading the Connecting the Heartland initiative. He is also developing strategies for operationalizing Heartland Forward’s research and programmatic work by increasing brand awareness, fostering public-sector partnerships and positioning the organization as a leader on policy solutions.
Prior to joining Heartland Forward, Solomon served as secretary of corrections for former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. In this role he served as chief executive of the Department and was widely acknowledged for providing values-driven, transparent leadership, while maintaining a focus on public-safety.
Solomon currently serves, by gubernatorial appointment, as a commissioner on Arkansas State Claims Commission. He has been recognized by Arkansas Business as both a 40 Under 40 Honoree and one of the 250 Most Influential Arkansans.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a master’s in public administration from Webster University.
Ali Jeffrey serves as the Program Manager of Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Heartland Forward. In her work, she has devoted interest for developing entrepreneurs and incorporating programs that fit the needs in our local communities.
She attended Wichita State University for her B.A. in Biological Sciences and the University of Arkansas for her master’s in Higher Education. Prior to Ali’s master’s degree, she discovered her excitement for investing in collegiate leaders and empowering community volunteers during her time as a Collegiate Development Consultant. She previously served as the Associate Director of Enrollment Services at Northwest Arkansas Community College.
She grew up in the heartland born and raised in Kansas.
Stacey is one of the newest members at Heartland Forward. She comes to the team bringing 15 years of an administrative background. Stacey has worked for some impactful organizations in the community as an administrative assistant. Most recently, Stacey supported the senior executive for the Walmart team for PepsiCo. Prior to PepsiCo, she was the executive specialist at Saatchi & Saatchi X, a shopper marketing agency in NWA, supporting multiple senior executives for six years.
Stacey attended Northwest Arkansas Community College through the business vendor management program, as well as, completing the administrative assistant program. She and her husband reside here in Bentonville, AR with their three young boys and two dogs. In their spare time, if they’re not working on a home project, they enjoy the trails and spending time on the lake as a family.
Since joining Heartland Forward, Jackson Li has worked on reports including Most Dynamic Metropolitans 2022 and 2023 as well as Most Dynamic Micropolitans 2022. Additionally, he assisted the research economists on a report released called Keepers of a Healthy Heartland: Strategies for Building a Robust Health Care Workforce.
Jackson graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he majored in economics and attended Johns Hopkins on the Washington, D.C. campus, where he received his master’s in applied economics. While working on his master’s, Li contributed to scholarly reports including U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Latin America During the Pandemic Outbreak, The Effects of Unemployment Benefits During the Pandemic and Sports Team Performances v. GDP Per Capita Growth.
He was raised in China and made his way ultimately to the U.S. from Australia.
Sydney Allsbury Lowe serves as the manager of events for Heartland Forward. In her work, she will tell you she has a passion for eye-catching detail, highly organized logistics and incorporating that into every event she plans and executes.
She attended the New York Institute of Technology as well as Arkansas State University studying hospitality management and will graduate from the University of Arkansas. Today, Sydney manages all events for Heartland Forward including Heartland Forward’s flagship event, the Heartland Summit. The Heartland Summit is recognized for bringing together thought leaders, innovators and investors to create powerful networks to forge paths of progress and turn great ideas into economic action.
Prior to Sydney’s schooling and work in NYC, she discovered her passion for detailed logistics and event planning during her time abroad in Asia, South America and Europe doing humanitarian work and travel coordination for student groups.
She grew up in the heartland raised in Oklahoma City.
Katherine (Katie) Milligan brings the power of public policy to building entrepreneurial communities. Born and raised in the Heartland, she currently serves as the Program Manager for Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Heartland Forward.
Katie previously served as the Chief of Staff for Start Co., a venture development organization based in Memphis, TN and as the Director of Small Business and Entrepreneurship for the Delta Regional Authority (DRA), a federal agency that works to improve regional economic opportunity in the eight-state Delta region. While at the DRA, Katie launched the Delta Entrepreneurship Network, a competitive fellowship program to identify entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship support organizations in the Delta.
Katie has served as a US delegate at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress and is currently serving as the Board Chair for the Clinton School of Public Service Alumni Board. Katie has a B.A. in political science from the University of Mississippi and a M.P.S. from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.
Through her robust knowledge of public policy, Katie has been selected as the first cohort of 100 emerging changemakers selected to participate in the Obama Foundation’s inaugural Leaders USA program. Milligan is ready to keep on building her skills and learn how she can expand her impact across public, private and nonprofit sectors.
Ross Owyoung joined Heartland Forward in 2023 as Associate Director of Development. In this role, Ross contributes to the growth and success of Heartland Forward by engaging donors, coordinating events and ensuring efficient operations.
Prior to joining Heartland Forward, Owyoung served as Development Officer at the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts (AMFA). He played a pivotal role in fundraising efforts for AMFA where his efforts and dedication were part of the success of capital campaign raising $170 million as well as its annual fundraising initiatives. Additionally, he served on the event leadership team as part of the grand opening where he coordinated staffing requirements and dozens of volunteers at AMFA.
Previously, he served as Director of University of Arkansas Little Rock Downtown. As director, he was charged with the grand opening of University of Arkansas Little Rock Downtown, ensuring its branding matched with the University of Arkansas Little Rock, along with all the programming, fundraising and public relations initiatives.
Ross holds a M.P.S from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, and a B.A in Criminal Justice and Sociology from the University of Arkansas Fayetteville. Owyoung currently serves on Ballet Arkansas Board of Directors as Special Events Chair and is also a 2023 Arkansas Business “20 in their Twenties” honoree.
Maria Rodriguez-Alcala applies a holistic approach to health and wellness and takes a proactive angle aiming to balance the reactive model that still dominates in the Heartland. She previously worked for University of Missouri as a researcher, instructor and, more recently, as a field faculty in Extension. She also worked in Sao Paulo, Brazil for Icone – an applied economics-based think tank and Washington State University. Her multi-disciplinary background, combined with her international, statewide and, more recently, local community-level experiences, allows Maria to bring unique tools to the table to help change the approach on how to improve health in the mid-states. When compared to the coast states and other developed economies, it is clear to her that innovative ideas and strategic partnerships are needed. She has a B.S. in applied economics from Texas A&M University, M.S. in applied economics from University of Missouri, and a PhD in Sustainable Development from University of Missouri. When asked about why she chose to stay in the Heartland, she says that after living for many years in Missouri, hiking in the Ozarks, and building relationships at the community level, her heart belongs here.
Julie Trivitt joined Heartland Forward from the University of Arkansas where she was a faculty member in both the Economics and Education Reform departments for eight years and has lived in the heartland her entire life. She leads our research initiatives on labor markets and talent pipelines as they are now and how we need them to adapt so the people of the heartland have opportunities to realize their full potential and employers have the best qualified talent.
She has a PhD and MS in Economics from the University of Arkansas. Her bachelor’s degree is also in Economics and was earned at Missouri State University. She aspires to be an herb gardener, a cruise director, and a librarian.
Will Trolinger is a Research Analyst for Heartland Forward and joined the “think and do” tank after serving as an intern.
Will graduated from the College of STEM at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith (UAFS) with a degree in computer science and has a particular interest in AI. While at UAFS, he balanced his academic career while playing on the baseball team in the positions of short stop and second base.
Will was born and raised in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Maryann P. Feldman is the Heninger Distinguished Professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of North Carolina, Professor of Finance at the Kenan Flagler School of Business and Senior Fellow at the Frank H. Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise. Dr. Feldman directs CREATE, an economic development center working to generate shared economic prosperity through a combination of research, data analytics, homegrown interventions and policy development. Dr. Feldman was the winner of the Global Award for Entrepreneurship Research for her contributions to the study of the geography of innovation, the role of entrepreneurial activity in the formation of regional industry clusters and the process of university technology transfer and commercialization. Feldman’s most recent work explores monopolies and income inequality,, emerging industrial and organizational forms and the process of regional economic transformation. Feldman is a Distinguished Scholar of the Technology and Innovation Division at the Academy of Management. Feldman is a prolific writer whose work appears in numerous journals, including: Management Science, Organization Science, Research Policy, The Journal of Technology Transfer, American Economic Review, The Review of Economics and Statistics, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Economic Geography, and The Brookings Papers on Economic Policy.
Richard Florida is one of the world’s leading urbanists.
He is a researcher and professor, serving as University Professor at University of Toronto’s School of Cities and Rotman School of Management.
He is a writer and journalist, having penned several global bestsellers, including the award-winning The Rise of the Creative Class and The New Urban Crisis. He co-founded CityLab, the leading publication dedicated to cities and urbanism.
He is an entrepreneur, as founder of the Creative Class Group which works closely with companies and governments worldwide.
Donna Harris is a fellow with Heartland Forward, an investor, technologist and serial entrepreneur whose work and investments have helped thousands of startups worldwide to grow and scale while solving some of our greatest challenges. She has been twice-recognized by Business Insider in The Seed 25 best female early-stage investors (2021, 2022) and she was named one of Washington DC’s Power 100 by both Washington Business Journal and Washington Life.
In addition to her role with Builders and Backers, Donna also is a General Partner in 1776 Ventures, a venture capital fund investing in more than 30 countries on five continents, and a Venture Partner at Praxis. She is also a prolific angel investor and cofounder of K Street Capital.
Previously, Donna was the Co-Founder of 1776, Managing Partner of 1776 Ventures, and Managing Director of the Startup America Partnership.
Today she serves as a board member of the Global Entrepreneurship Network and the National Center for Entrepreneurship, an Advisor to the Economic Innovation Group, and member of the APCO Worldwide International Advisory Council.
Yee-Lin Lai is a Fellow with Heartland Forward. Also, Lai is a program officer with the Walton Family Foundation on the Home Region Program.
Prior to joining the foundation, Yee-Lin assisted the dean of the University of Arkansas Walton College of Business in conducting an assessment of the Northwest Arkansas entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Her previous roles include deputy director of the Ministry of Health and senior assistant director at the Ministry of Trade and Industry in Singapore.
Minoli Ratnatunga is an economist dedicated to helping communities prosper. Her work at think tanks, non-profits and local government has focused on the tools and policies that create outcomes that matter.
Minoli’s research at Heartland Forward continues her pursuit of pragmatic and effective policies to spur economic renewal, including exploring the role of research institutions and entrepreneurship in economic development. She draws on both an in-depth local perspective from her time crafting regional development policy in Pittsburgh, and her knowledge of national best-practices built as the director of regional economics research at the Milken Institute.
Minoli helps mission-driven organizations better understand and address critical issues to increase their community impact with Star Insights, a strategic advisory firm based in Los Angeles.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and economics from the London School of Economics, and a Master of Science in public policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University.
Charlotte is the Director of Charitable Trusts and Foundations for the Commerce Trust Company, a division of Commerce Bank. In this role, she oversees discretionary grantmaking for several private foundations and charitable trusts, including the William T. Kemper Foundation, the Richard J. Stern Foundation for the Arts, and the Oppenstein Brothers Foundation. Charlotte joined Commerce Bank in 2015 as part of the Strategic Planning Office, leading several longer-term, cross-bank initiatives including ones around innovation and consumer strategy. Prior to joining Commerce, she worked in Equity Research for Fidelity Investments in Boston, and in Corporate Strategy for Northrop Grumman in the Washington, DC area. She also spent a summer with Wells Fargo’s commercial bank in New York City. She has her MBA from Columbia University, and her AB in History & Literature from Harvard College.
She serves on the boards of the Truman Library Institute and the Kansas City Ballet, on the KC Rising Steering Committee, and on the KCUR 89.3 advisory board.
Jane Duke is Vice President, Associate General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer of Tyson Foods and oversees the company’s global ethics and compliance efforts as well as internal investigations.
Duke joined Tyson Foods in early 2018 as a vice president and associate general counsel, leading a team of attorneys and other legal staff involved in managing domestic and international litigation. She was named to her current position in January 2021.
Before joining Tyson Foods, Duke served for 11 years in the in the U.S. Department of Justice, serving in a variety of roles including U.S. Attorney. She was also a partner in a private law practice, representing companies and individuals involved in internal and government investigations, as well as complex litigation.
Duke grew up on a poultry production, beef cattle and row crop farm in Scranton, Arkansas. She earned her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Arkansas.
For the past 10 years Andre Fowlkes has been working to grow the technology startup ecosystem in Memphis TN, through a venture development organization he co-founded called Start Co. As President of Start Co. Fowlkes oversees and manages sales and business development, corporate and government engagement, smart cities activity, civic innovation efforts, and resource cultivation. Under Fowlkes’ leadership Start Co. has seen exponential growth not just in startups supported and investment raised but in the expansion of its business model providing corporate and civic innovation solutions.
Before Start Co. Fowlkes spent a decade in the capital markets, previously serving in roles as an Investment Counselor at Fisher Investments in San Francisco and as a relationship manager through an agency of Guardian Life Insurance in New York City.
Today, Fowlkes brings extensive experience in building new and unconventional partnerships to assist in the brokering of technology, talent, and capital for economic growth. He leads the charge at Start Co. to build and operate new programs and resources for the inclusion of minorities and women, students, and social organizations. He directly supports Start Co. companies by serving as an Executive in Residence and deliverer of programming in areas of growth and operating modeling, business development and sales, business operations, financial forecasting, and corporate development.
With great commitment to service and the community Fowlkes is Chairman of the Board for Orion Federal Credit Union and serves on the Advisory Board for Southern Sun Asset Management and Heartland Forward. Fowlkes was a Mayoral appointment to the Memphis & Shelby County Metropolitan Charter Commission directed with researching, analyzing, writing a recommendation, and bringing to voters a new consolidated metropolitan Government. Fowlkes recently served on City of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s Transition Team.
In acknowledgement of Fowlkes’ commitment to community and talent development, Governor Bill Haslam appointed him to the Tennessee Workforce Development Board of Directors and Mayor AC Wharton appointed Fowlkes to the Workforce Investment Network Board of Directors. Fowlkes also serves on numerous startup boards.
Recognized as a leader in social innovation, Fowlkes is a trainer on the” Power of Social Innovation” as designated by Harvard University Kennedy School Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. He is a co-teacher and creator of the University of Memphis’ Department of Journalism’s Entrepreneurial Journalism initiative and Certificate. Fowlkes also provided thought leadership as a frontpage business columnist for the Commercial Appeal, Memphis’ leading media outlet from 2011-2013.
Having worked in startups, wealth and money management, small business & entrepreneurship, government, non-profit, and economic & community development has allowed Fowlkes to accumulate a unique set of skills to build social, political, and financial capital for growing entrepreneurial ecosystems and startups as a diversifier to traditional forms of economic growth.
Salah Goss is a financial inclusion expert specializing in digital solutions. She was recently named Senior Vice President for Social Impact at the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. Previously, she was Senior Vice President at Mastercard running international markets for financial inclusion at the base of the economic pyramid. She was also Head of the Mastercard Lab for Financial Inclusion in Nairobi where she oversaw technology innovation and product development focused on developing markets. Her previous roles at Mastercard also include Vice President, Global Products and Solutions where she partnered with the development community, NGOs and governments to design payments and financial services solutions that foster financial inclusion and address wider economic development challenges. Salah has contributed to multiple patents, representing her contribution to the development of innovative digital solutions while at Mastercard.
Salah previously worked at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation where she managed a portfolio of over $90 million and focused on financial inclusion through innovation. Prior to The Gates Foundation, Salah worked as a financial analyst at Sanibel Microfinance Network of Arab Countries in Cairo, Egypt. While in West Africa, she led the establishment of the West Africa Regional Office of the Soros Open Society Foundation based in Dakar, Senegal. Early in her career, she worked for the United States Department of Commerce as a Partnership Specialist where she received an award for outstanding performance.
Salah has been recognized for her thought leadership and has authored numerous articles, including an article on financial inclusion featured in the World Economic Forum, “The Mobile Financial Services Development Report 2011”. Salah has written blogs and articles appearing in CGAP Technology Program, GSMA Mobile Money for the Unbanked and Lydian Payments Journal. Most recently, Salah authored an essay in the book The Future of Building Wealth Brief Essays on the Best Ideas to Build Wealth—for Everyone , published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and The Aspen Institute. She has done frequent speaking engagements including for Forbes Africa, YPO, CNN, MSNBC as well as on the opening panel for the United Nations General Assembly and at Davos in 2019.
Salah was recognized as a National Security and Education Program David L. Boren Fellow and in 2016 Salah became a Fellow of the inaugural class of the Finance Leaders Fellowship and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. In 2019, Salah was awarded the Outstanding Corporate Social Intrapreneur of the Year by the World Economic Forum and Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. Digital solutions developed under Salah’s leadership have been named in multiple years of Mastercard’s placement of Fortune magazine’s Changing the World list. The Mastercard Lab for Financial Inclusion, while headed by Salah, was awarded top 5 fintech labs globally by Fintech magazine.
Salah is a member of the board of directors for Root Capital and Global Advisory Board for Planned Parenthood International. She is also on the Advisory Council member of Heartland Forward and Washington University Social Policy Institute.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and US Foreign Policy from Johns Hopkins University and a master’s degree from The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University.
Ken Levit is executive director of GKFF. Prior to taking on the leadership role at GKFF, Levit served as president of the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa from 2001 to 2006. From early 1998 through 2000, Levit was special counsel to George Tenet, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Levit practiced corporate law at the firm of Crowe & Dunlevy in Tulsa from 1995 to 1998.
Levit is involved in several civic activities. He currently serves as chair of Teach for America-Oklahoma, as a member of the Teach for America National Council, and as chair of the Tulsa Regional Chamber Tulsa’s Future Commission. Levit also leads the board of the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Levit earned his law degree from Yale Law School in 1994 and received his undergraduate degree from Brown University in 1987.
Anna Mason is a Managing Partner on Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, where she has led more than 50 investments. She currently serves on the board of AppHarvest (AgTech; Eastern Kentucky; NASDAQ: APPH), is a board observer for Pryon (Enterprise AI; Raleigh, NC), Dispatch (Logistics; Minneapolis, MN), and Collective Retreats (Hospitality; Denver, CO). Anna also leads the strategy for the Rise of the Rest Platform, which is anchored by the firm’s Rise of the Rest Road Trip and has been covered widely in the media including by 60 Minutes and The New York Times. She has more than fifteen years of experience in finance, startup operations, and venture community programming.
Prior to joining Revolution, she co-founded a fitness-community startup called BurnThis (acquired by Beachbody) and co-led The Vinetta Project DC, an organization supporting early-stage female founders in tech. She began her career on Wall Street, as a distressed bond and post-reorg private equity trader, most recently as a Vice President at The Seaport Group. Anna received her BA in Government from Harvard College and her MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business. She was named to Fortune’s 40 Under 40 in 2020, Business Insider’s list of 100 People Transforming Business in 2019 and a Washingtonian Tech Titan in 2017 and 2018. She is a proud Washington, DC-transplant and has visited more than 40 startup communities across the country.
Claudia San Pedro serves as head of the Limited Service Category and president of SONIC Drive-In, part of the Inspire family of restaurants. Inspire is a multi-brand restaurant company whose portfolio includes nearly 32,000 Arby’s, Baskin-Robbins, Buffalo Wild Wings, Dunkin’, Jimmy John’s, Rusty Taco, and SONIC Drive-In restaurants worldwide.
San Pedro sets the strategic direction for SONIC and is responsible for overseeing the brand’s marketing and operations teams. She is also responsible for the growth and success of SONIC’s company-owned restaurants as well as the brand’s relationship with its franchise community.
San Pedro assumed her role in January 2018. She joined SONIC in 2006 as vice president of investor relations and treasurer before being promoted to executive vice president and chief financial officer in 2015. In her previous roles, San Pedro was responsible for SONIC’s financial planning practices, as well as the brand’s relationship with lending institutions, shareholders, and the financial community.
Prior to joining SONIC, she served as the director for the Oklahoma Office of State Finance (OSF). Appointed by Governor Brad Henry in 2005, San Pedro was the first female and first Hispanic to serve as director of state finance for Oklahoma.
Before joining OSF and the Henry administration, San Pedro served as the assistant director of the Oklahoma State Senate fiscal staff and a staff budget analyst for the senate appropriations subcommittees on education, human services and general government.
For her leadership, San Pedro was included on the HERoes Women Executive Role Model List 2021, powered by Yahoo! Finance. She was also honored as part of Nation’s Restaurant News’ 2021 Power List: Women of Influence. In 2020, San Pedro was named one of LATINA Style’s 2020 Corporate Executives of the Year, and she was featured on Entrepreneur’s 100 Powerful Women 2020 list.
San Pedro presently serves on the Board of Directors of the International Franchise Association, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, BOK Financial, and the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools. She also serves on the University of Oklahoma Price College of Business Board of Advisors and the Smith College Board of Trustees.
San Pedro holds an undergraduate degree from Smith College in Massachusetts and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Oklahoma.
Born in Mexico City, San Pedro resides in Oklahoma City with her family.
Anne-Marie Slaughter is the CEO of New America, a think and action tank dedicated to renewing the promise of America, bringing us closer to our nation’s highest ideals. She is also the Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor Emerita of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. From 2009–2011, she served as director of policy planning for the United States Department of State, the first woman to hold that position. Upon leaving the State Department she received the Secretary’s Distinguished Service Award for her work leading the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, as well as meritorious service awards from USAID and the Supreme Allied Commander for Europe. Prior to her government service, Dr. Slaughter was the Dean of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs (formerly the Woodrow Wilson School) from 2002–2009 and the J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law at Harvard Law School from 1994-2002.
Dr. Slaughter has written or edited eight books, including The Chessboard and the Web: Strategies of Connection in a Networked World (2017), Unfinished Business: Women, Men, Work, Family (2015), The Idea That Is America: Keeping Faith with Our Values in a Dangerous World (2007), and A New World Order (2004), as well as over 100 scholarly articles. She was the convener and academic co-chair, with Professor John Ikenberry, of the Princeton Project on National Security, a multi-year research project aimed at developing a new, bipartisan national security strategy for the United States. In 2012 she published the article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” in the Atlantic, which quickly became the most read article in the history of the magazine and helped spawn a renewed national debate on the continued obstacles to genuine full male-female equality.
Dr. Slaughter is a contributing editor to the Financial Times and writes a bi-monthly column for Project Syndicate. She provides frequent commentary for both mainstream and new media and curates foreign policy news for over 140,000 followers on Twitter. Foreign Policy magazine named her to their annual list of the Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. She received a B.A. from Princeton, an M.Phil and D.Phil in international relations from Oxford, where she was a Daniel M. Sachs Scholar, and a J.D. from Harvard. She is married to Professor Andrew Moravcsik; they have two sons.
Darrin Williams’ career is a unique combination of law, business, and politics. Currently serving as the CEO of Southern Bancorp, Inc., Williams oversees the strategic direction and operations of each of Southern’ s three Community Development Financial Institutions: Southern Bancorp, Inc., a bank holding company; Southern Bancorp Bank, one of America’s largest rural development banks; and Southern Bancorp Community Partners, a 501(c)(3) development finance and lending organization – collectively known as “Southern.”
Southern was founded nearly thirty years ago when some of the nation’s most notable political, business and philanthropic leaders, including Bill Clinton, Rob Walton, Muhammad Yunus and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation to name a few, came together around a central idea – that the economic challenges facing many underserved communities could in part be addressed through the creation of a values-based financial organization focused on providing these services to those who most need them. With an initial investment of approximately $10 million and a mission to create economic opportunity, Southern has grown to become one of the most effective and largest community development organizations in the United States, as well as a model for an entire industry of mission-focused financial institutions known as Community Development Financial Institutions. Southern Bancorp today is a $1.6 billion asset organization with over 65,000 customers and 49 branches located primarily in underserved markets in the Mid-South.
Prior to leading Southern, Williams served as managing partner at the law firm of Carney, Williams, Bates, Pulliam & Bowman, PLLC, where he focused on representing institutional investors and consumers in class action litigation against some of the nation’s largest publicly traded companies. Williams also served three terms of elected office in the Arkansas House of Representatives (2008-2013), serving as Speaker Pro Tempore of the 89th Arkansas General Assembly. As a lawmaker, he was recognized nationally for his legislative accomplishments, including being named a Champion of Small Business by the National Capital Coalition, an Aspen-Rodel Fellow in Public Leadership by the Aspen Institute, and listed as one of 12 state legislators from around the country to watch by Governing Magazine. Williams received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Hendrix College, his Juris Doctor from Vanderbilt University School of Law, and his Master of Laws degree in Securities and Financial Regulation from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.